Here is an article I’ll send into the local paper for their “Faith” section. It’s from my sermon on Sunday (one elder congratulated me on preaching my first nine-point sermon!).
Wealth is a blessing. If we have the resources for a comfortable life free from material need, that is a gift from God (1 Timothy 6:17; James 1:17; ). And it’s safe to say that you, reader, are wealthy. Sure, you may not qualify for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and yes, you may face deep and distressing financial difficulties. But the truth is, simply being an American means you live in one of the wealthiest societies history has ever known. The sort of desperate poverty so common in much of the world is foreign to us. And this wealth is a blessing from God.
But it’s a dangerous blessing. Having money and possessions presents a challenge to your faith in Christ. And living in a society in which the pursuit of wealth is part of the cultural air that we breath threatens your walk with Christ. Here are six ways wealth (and the desire for it) challenges your Christian faith:
1. Wealth can make you self-centered. When your are consumed with securing the wealth you have, or are bent on acquiring more wealth, your hopes and desires revolve solely around your interests and desires. Compassion and sensitivity to the interests and needs of others takes second place to your self-centered agenda. That naturally leads to conflict with others. The desire for wealth has ruined many a friendship and broken up many a family. James tells us why: “… you covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:2).
2. Wealth can blind you to spiritual truth. A man once went to Jesus to settle a dispute between him and his brother over an inheritance. Jesus refused, and told him the parable of the rich fool who lost his soul because he sought his life in the “abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-21). But the man’s spiritual blindness was evident even before Jesus told the parable. Here was the Son of God, the Lord and Savior of Israel, who came to give eternal life to sinners. But all this man saw in Jesus was a petty claims court officer. And because of that same blindness, he put his hope in riches and not in God. Wealth’s allure blinds us to eternal realities.
3. Wealth can make you unfruitful in your service to Christ. No one whose heart was set on earthly riches has ever done great things for Christ. In the parable of the sower, the “deceitfulness of riches” choke the word and make it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).
4. Wealth tempts you to put your trust in it, and not in God. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” This doesn’t mean no rich person can ever be saved. But it means no one who puts their trust in their riches can be saved. And the line between having wealth and trusting in wealth is an extremely easy one to cross.
5. Wealth can rob you of joy. With wealth comes worry: how to invest it?, how to protect it?, how to grow it? And the desire for a particular possession or a certain income level all too often makes you anxious and discontent until you obtain it. And this fretting and fussing over money and stuff saps the joy that should be yours as a Christian. Happy is the one who is content with what he has – today!
6. Wealth can enslave you. Not only is a life devoted to gaining wealth a life of bondage (because one is not free to act apart from the prospect of financial gain), but the more possessions we own, the more time we must spend to their maintenance and upkeep.
In short, wealth is a challenge to your Christian faith because it is nothing less than a little god, an idol, that demands your service, your worship, and your love. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). And mammon is a cruel god: it never delivers the deep contentment and fulfillment it promises. Rather, it often brings misery to those who serve it. This is proven time and time again by those who seek their happiness in money and possessions. For example, consider that many people who win fantastic amounts of money in the lottery often end up miserable and broke in just a few years’ time. One lottery winner said, after losing his granddaughter to a drug overdose (drugs she bought with her share of the winnings), “I wish I’d torn that ticket up.” These sad stories are common enough that they should print the following warning on every lottery ticket: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9)!
But God gives you grace in Jesus Christ to overcome this challenge to your faith. Here are three ways he does that:
1. God gives you a new identity. Much of the allure of wealth and possessions is the idea that we can establish an identity for ourselves in the things we own or consume. Advertisers appeal to this; they don’t sell you a product so much as an image: “Buy this car, and you’ll be attractive and exciting.” But Christ gives you a far better identity: you are a forgiven, redeemed, and loved child of God. If you know who you are in Christ, the appeal of wealth and possessions disappears.
2. God gives you a new love. If you believe that Christ died for you sins, you will love him. And this love for him will drive out all competing loves, including the love of wealth.
3. God gives you new freedom. In Christ, you are free to serve God and man because you know you have a Heavenly Father who promises to give you all you need in this life. And, you are free to share your wealth for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of helping others in need.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net